How to Prevent Identity Theft When Looking for a Job

Updated on May 6, 2020
SMD2012 profile image

Sally is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky clean and drama-free.

Before you start filling in an online job application or sending your resume to unknown recipients, take a few simple steps to ensure your privacy is protected as much as possible.
Before you start filling in an online job application or sending your resume to unknown recipients, take a few simple steps to ensure your privacy is protected as much as possible.

Don't get ripped off by fake job postings. Learn how to spot false and misleading employment ads that could lead to your personal information being accessed by scammers. The last thing you need when you are looking for a new job is to have to spend time restoring your identity and protecting yourself from online fraudsters.

Do Your Homework Before Sending Off Your Résumé

Looking for a new job is tough work. Who wants the added task of having to weed out fake online want ads from legitimate job opportunities?

When it comes to looking for work online, there are two types of job postings that require some critical thinking and background research before you submit your confidential employment information to a dubious advertisement. These ads are what I call potential “snoops” and “scams.”

Watch Out for Snoops

Snoops are anonymous job postings designed to scope out the job market, see who’s searching for work in a particular sector and gather sample résumé and cover letter content and data.

Since it’s very easy for people to create free, anonymous online job postings on sites such as Craigslist, some unethical businesses, and even other job seekers, may create fake job postings to see who’s out there looking for work, what their credentials are and how many job seekers are responding to ads.

You need to be careful responding to online ads that don’t identify who the prospective employer is, especially if you’re currently employed and you don’t want your boss to find out you’re looking for a new job.

Many daily newspapers used to offer a filter service for both job seekers and employers. If an employer wanted to post a job without other employees finding out, the employer could purchase a PO Box number c/o the newspaper. Applicants responding to PO Box job ads could provide the newspaper with a list of businesses they didn’t want their applications forwarded to and then the newspaper would weed them out of the mail. Nowadays, online ads have no such filtering service.

If you choose to reply to a posting without knowing where you're sending your resume, be warned that your employer may find out, particularly if they've posted a fake ad trying to catch staff planning to jump ship.

Watch Out for Scams

Scams are deliberately misleading job postings designed to scam job seekers out of money and personal and private information. These are particularly loathsome as they take advantage of people who are genuinely and sincerely looking for work and who may be facing mounting financial stress. To avoid these types of fake job postings and protect your personal information, your money and your time, be on the lookout for the following signs that a job posting might be a scam.

Don't get tricked into giving away your private information.Sadly, there are plenty of snakes in the grass trying to take advantage of people looking for work.
Don't get tricked into giving away your private information.Sadly, there are plenty of snakes in the grass trying to take advantage of people looking for work. | Source

The Top Three Signs That a Job Posting Might Be Fake

1. Something About the Job Posting Just Doesn't Seem Right

Be on the look-out for these signs that the job posting is probably fake:

  • The job posting looks and sounds unprofessional: poor spelling and grammar, vague or generic job descriptions, unreasonably low credentials required, unrealistically high compensation and benefits
  • The job is for a company with a name that sounds very similar to a well-known, reputable company
  • The name in the ad suggests that the employer is associated with, or a department of, the government. Look for signs such as national flags, emblems or official looking crests that are similar to images used on legitimate government websites and documents. Most online government job postings are done through the government's own website.
  • The ad uses a free email address such as Gmail or Yahoo with an unprofessional username (i.e.; Likewise, if the username sounds too formal, the scammer may be overcompensating by giving himself a ridiculously official-sounding “username.”
  • Anchor text and web addresses that don’t match the link in the URL preview pane
  • Graphics, logos and images that are poorly pixilated—this could be a sign that the site has copied logos and images from other legitimate businesses

2. The Job Posting Asks You to Pay a Membership, Subscription or Finder's Fee

If a job posting requires you to pay a fee in order to submit a résumé or move on to an interview, it is likely a scam. If you are asked to pay for training materials or web-based training seminars in order to even qualify to apply for the job, be wary.

3. The Job Posting Asks for Your Private and Personal Information

Don’t be tricked into disclosing any personal information that you wouldn’t include on your résumé. Private information such as your Social Security Number and banking information is only required after your prospective employer has presented a bona fide written job offer that you've accepted.

There is no legitimate reason for a potential employer to know your personal and financial information during the recruitment phase. Be aware that it’s not hard for a determined fraud artist to cobble together all the information they’d need about you to apply for loans in your name of steal your identity.

If It Seems Too Good to Be True . . .

Listen to your intuition, your gut, and your common sense when reviewing a job posting. And remember, if a job posting sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Be careful with who you connect with online and what information you share. Keep your privacy settings tight and secure so you aren't sharing personal work details with strangers.
Be careful with who you connect with online and what information you share. Keep your privacy settings tight and secure so you aren't sharing personal work details with strangers.

Five Common-Sense Tips to Keep You Safe Online

  • Update your virus software on a regular basis. Even when you aren't looking for a job, you should be keeping your virus protection working behind the scenes and doing regular automatic checks-ups. Always scan emails attachments that come back from prospective employers, even if you're sure of the sender's identity.
  • Be alert for phishing scams that look like they come from employment and career networking sites. If you receive a email telling you to log in and check your account by following a link, be careful. It could be someone phishing for usernames and passwords so they can break into your online social media accounts.
  • Don’t give all your personal information away if you don’t have to in the first application screening round. You shouldn't include your birth date or security number on your resume. No one should need that information until a bonafide job has been offered and you are filling in payroll paperwork.
  • Watch what you post on social media and who you are connecting with. Don’t accept invitations from people you don’t recognize. It may be tempting to build your network by accepting as many link requests as possible, but unless you know who the other person is, you have no way of knowing what they plan to do with your information and who they might share it with without your consent.

Have You Been Scammed?

Have you ever been duped into revealing private information by a fake job posting?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Sally Hayes


Submit a Comment
  • Mary Phelan profile image

    Mary Phelan 

    2 years ago from London

    Fabulous - and frightening - hub; thank you.

  • DREAM ON profile image


    7 years ago

    You are vunerable when you are eager for work and the job sounds so good.Great advice.

  • prasetio30 profile image


    8 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Thanks give us warning and remind us about fake job posting. Sometimes we didn't realize about this. You open my eyes with something I don't really know. I give many thanks to you to post this hub and share with us. Rated up and useful. Cheers..


  • passthejelly profile image

    Mark Passarelli 

    8 years ago from Lakewood Colorado

    This is a great hub. It is important for people to know these things to avoid catastrophe. Thanks for the information!

  • profile image

    mours sshields 

    8 years ago from Elwood, Indiana

    Great advice! There have been people who tried to scam me

    on Craig's List. So....disgusting!!!


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